FEAR, FEAR, FEAR….In the LA Times today, L.J. Williamson writes about one of my all-time pet peeves: the insane fear that modern suburban parents have of sexual predators:
At a PTA meeting, during a discussion of traffic problems around the school campus, I asked what we could do to encourage families to walk or bike to school. Other parents looked at me as if I’d suggested we stuff the children into barrels and roll them into the nearest active volcano. One teacher looked at me in shock. “I wouldn’t let my children walk to school alone … would you?”
“Haven’t you heard about all of the predators in this area?” asked a father.
“No, I haven’t,” I said. “I think this is a pretty safe neighborhood.”
“You’d be surprised,” he replied, lowering his eyebrows. “You should read the Megan’s Law website.” He continued: “You know how to solve the traffic problem around this school? Get rid of all the predators. Then you won’t have any more traffic.”
“Huh” indeed. As Williamson says, child abduction by strangers is very, very rare. About as likely as being hit by lightning. “But it’s not fear of lightning strikes that parents cite as the reason for keeping children indoors watching television instead of out on the sidewalk skipping rope.”
Even at that, though, I don’t understand the bit about her son’s school having a rule that K-4 kids aren’t allowed to ride bicycles to school. What’s up with that?
UPDATE: For what it’s worth, my mother the ex-schoolteacher writes in about the bicycle thing:
I think this is standard procedure among school distsricts. Legally the school district is responsible for children until they get home after school, and I suspect, though I never asked because I never cared, that they feel the chance of a younger child getting hurt bicycling on the streets to and from school is greater than with older children and they don’t want to risk a lawsuit.
UPDATE 2: I also agree with Atrios’ comment. Obviously this is all intertwined, but it’s the fact that this fear has become practically a cultural norm that’s the real problem. Don’t give in to it and people think you’re a bad parent. That’s nuts.